Hybrid workers embrace anytime working and say office culture has ‘changed forever’, but concerns over discrimination, career progression, and noise weigh on employees’ minds
LONDON, UK – Poly (NYSE: POLY), today released a new report outlining the evolution of the workplace and changing employee attitudes to the 9-5. The Poly Evolution of the Workplace report provides analysis on the findings of a survey of 7,261 hybrid workers from the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the United Arab Emirates. It examines how attitudes and behaviours have evolved – looking at everything from working patterns and culture, to frustration and noise, right down to what we wear.
“Our research found that workers (58%) felt that the rise in remote working has meant they are ‘always on’ and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work” says Paul Clark, senior vice president of EMEA sales at Poly. “And while many are enjoying the benefits of hybrid working – the work-life balance, lie ins, and family time – others are feeling side-lined and disconnected. For example, 52% think hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to employees in the office full-time. Equally, people are feeling anxious about the return to the office, with 42% admitting they will be prone to ‘noise rage’ if colleagues are too loud. Sadly, the younger generation – many of whom entered the workforce during all the upheaval – are feeling the strain particularly strongly. Of the 62% who reported that they have not been to their new office, 72% say the idea of going in is keeping them up at night. For hybrid working to be a success, these issues must be tackled head on. Companies need to continue to put their employees at the centre of all that they do and provide them with the tools they need to accomplish their jobs in this new environment.”
Always On vs Anytime Working – Why employers need to set clear boundaries to prevent employee burnout
The research suggests hybrid working is here to stay. 82% of respondents intend to spend at least one day a week working from home in the future, with 54% planning to split their time evenly between office and home. One of the drivers for this shift is the emergence of ‘anytime working’ – whereby employees have greater autonomy over when they do their work – with over two third of employees (69%) saying the 9-5 has been replaced by anytime working. When asked about the benefits of working from home, the top three responses given were: avoiding lengthy commutes, achieving a better work-life balance and feeling less stressed. Similarly, when asked what they would miss about working from home, people highlighted lie ins, time with family and finishing on time.
However, while many workers have reaped the benefits, working from home has not been a smooth transition for everyone. Worryingly the lines between anytime working and being ‘always on’ are blurring: more than half of workers (58%) felt that the rise in remote working has meant they are ‘always on’ and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work. Added to this, being expected to work outside of their hours was listed as the second biggest drawback of working from home – after having less fun with colleagues. The findings also show:
- Difficulty collaborating, lack of IT support and lack of equipment to enable home working are listed within the top five drawbacks of working from home – suggesting many employees have not been provided with the right tools to work effectively.
- Nearly half (47%) said they worried about missing out on learning from peers and seniors when working from home.
- A further 52% think hybrid or home workers could be discriminated against or treated differently to employees in the office full-time.
“Anytime working should not be confused with being always on,” adds Clark. “The organisations that promote a healthy work environment and empower anytime working will see a much happier and more productive workforce. This is especially important as we are experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’ phenomenon, where people across industries are leaving their jobs due to the pandemic. Businesses cannot afford to lose talent so must offer the best working experience possible to all its employees, no matter where they are located.”
The Future Role of the Office and the Rise of ‘Noise Rage’
The research suggests that there are very mixed feelings about the return to office. While many have missed the camaraderie and connection of seeing colleagues and clients, others are feeing anxious and worry their performance will suffer. What is evident is that for many, the changes of the past year are here to stay – with 64% of workers saying that office culture has ‘changed forever’. As a result, while many intend to return to the office, the role of the office and office etiquette are likely to evolve.
The survey suggests noise will be a particular hot button for returning workers, with the potential to cause friction between workers:
- 56% expressed concern that noise levels in the office will make them less productive.
- 42% worrying they will be prone to “noise rage” if their colleagues are too loud.
- 60% think they’ll get fed up if their noisy co-workers break their concentration.
- 40% fear that they will be more prone to outbursts in the office now that they’re unable to mute themselves or turn their cameras off.
- Comparatively some are looking forward to returning to the office because of the noise at home (34%).
Despite the concerns, workers are looking forward to having more person-to-person interactions. Office banter, going for lunch with clients/ colleagues and office camaraderie are listed as the top three things workers miss about the office. The findings also highlight how the role of the office will evolve. When asked how people would see themselves using the office in the future, results tended to be practical and task oriented. The ‘top three reasons to go back into the office’ were brainstorming / collaborating with colleagues, attending meetings and access to better equipment and technology.
Corporate image has also changed. Even industries such as financial services that have always expected employees to maintain a certain standard of dress are now becoming more relaxed. 61% of workers in finance think that hybrid working has brought about the death of the suit, and that wearing suits might go away for good – eight points higher than the average of 53%.
“The role of the office and what people want to use it for is changing. It’s evident that people have craved human interaction since working from home and are looking forward to getting back to the office,” says Clark. “However, noise is a legitimate concern for many, particularly for those younger workers that are new to the workforce or a new environment. To address the rise of ‘noise rage’, organisations need to provide employees with the right technology, such as noise cancelling products, to reduce distractions, improve productivity and ensure equality of experience. Where possible, organisations should also look to create dedicated quiet spaces (booths, more rooms, spacing out desks) equipped with the right technologies.”
The Impact on Young Workers and their Future Careers
The findings highlight the impact remote working has had on young workers and how their careers could be in jeopardy, with many worrying about the return to office. Two fifths of respondents have been unable to visit their new office – either because the company had moved office, or they joined during the pandemic – a figure that rose to 62% of 18–24-year-olds. Of the young workers who have not yet visited their office, 72% said the thought of visiting the office for the first time, and the potential noise levels, kept them awake at night.
Younger employees also worried about the impact of working remotely on their abilities to form relationships and communicate with their peers, with many worrying that this could hold them back:
- 52% of workers aged 16-24 were concerned that working remotely would have a negative impact on their development and career progression, compared to the average of 43%.
- 53% of 18–24-year-olds worry that remote working has made them less confident in their ability to communicate and work with colleagues effectively, compared to the average of 42%.
- 50% of young workers fear they have lost the art of small talk, compared to the average of 39%.
Poly recommends that businesses think carefully about how they manage any future transition to a more permanent form of hybrid working. Here’s some top recommendations from Poly:
- Understand your employees’ personas to truly understand the personality types and working style preferences within your business so everyone can do their best work.
- Equip the anywhere workforce with the right tools to conduct business from everywhere. Video has rapidly become the de facto way for teams to connect, however the quality and experience can vary widely.
- Modernise centralised meeting spaces, while enabling the ability to connect and collaborate from anywhere.
“To unlock the benefits of hybrid working, organisations need to keep people, technology and spaces front of mind,” comments Clark. “Firstly, businesses need to understand employees’ personas and working styles. Secondly, they need to clearly define their future office – what spaces will be needed? Should we create more areas for quiet working or collaboration? Doing so will allow organisations to better understand their technology requirements to help the workforce become happier, and more productive. Most importantly, this will ensure everyone has an equal experience, no matter where, when or how they work. This will allow everyone to reap the rewards and truly make hybrid ‘work’.”
About the research
The findings are based on an online omnibus survey of hybrid workers conducted by Censuswide in August 2021. This includes a total of 7,261 Hybrid workers in the UK (2,003), France (1,001), Germany (1,002), Poland (1,000) Sweden (1,005), Spain (1,000) and the UAE (250).
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